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Chekhov's Gift

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Happy Birthday. What a wonderful day this is! You're a year older, so let's celebrate! Now, I know the mystic artifact I got you from that guy who set up a booth on the street corner seems useless and thoughtless, but something told me it would be good for you. Yeah, see it glowing. It does that sometimes. Keep it in mind when you're fighting the Dark Lord. If you're lucky, it will actually be important to the plot.

Now, Chekhov's Gift is not given an important purpose at first. It gains that with time. Now, that old hermit might give a gift that he knows will be useful, but you do not know immediately how important it is to the plot. The other case is that it was important by freak chance. It can be given for a Birthday, Christmas, or some other reason. The key factor is that it's not what it appears to be at first. Sub-Trope of It Was a Gift. See also It May Help You on Your Quest. Compare Memento Macguffin.

Enjoy your sacred artifact. Hope you manage to Save the World.

Related to the Law of Conservation of Detail.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bleach, Ichigo is given a"Substitute Shinigami Combat Pass" that was supposed to identify himself to other resident Shinigami, but the Shinigami who handles Karakura Town doesn't recognize it at all. Urahara Kisuke later modifies it to shunt Ichigo to and from his human shell into his spirit form. In truth, the badge was an instrument to suppress Ichigo's spiritual pressure and to keep tabs on him in case he betrayed Soul Society.
  • In Heat Guy J, Daisuke is given a silver bullet necklace by his father in a Flashback. It turns out to be a thumb drive containing all sorts of dirt on his older brother Shun, who attempted to take over the city.
  • In Naruto's Kakashi Gaiden, Minato's gift to Kakashi seemed like an ordinary if oddly-shaped kunai, but it was actually meant to summon Minato to Kakashi's location once it was thrown.
  • The heroine of Nurse Angel Ririka SOS gets her Transformation Trinket as a birthday present.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, Blue gave Yellow a straw hat for disguise and gender-concealing reasons. It ultimately doesn't seem like it does much other than creating awkward tension between her and Red later, but it is eventually revealed that the two feathers that adorn the hat are really the Rainbow and Silver Wings.
  • In Summer Time Rendering, Ushio visits Shinpei in the first few pages of Chapter 1 (July 22nd) and gives him an unknown present. The present is eventually revealed to be Haine's eye, the source of his time loop powers, and the moment Shadow Ushio gave it to him closed the greater Stable Time Loop spanning the entire series.

    Fan Works 
  • Between Dreams and Memories: The diamond sword Skeppy gifted to aid L'Manberg in their revolutionary war is eventually used to kill Wilbur during the Manberg-Pogtopia War.
  • Oni Ga Shiku Series: Kiryu gifts Izuku Nishiki's old lighter after he leaves the Morning Glory orphanage after the end of summer vacation to go back home. Six years later, Izuku goes to retrieve the lighter from his house as a good luck charm when he goes to save his mother from Akatani; a few days after that, Izuku takes a bullet for Akatani and Nishiki's lighter saves his life.

    Film — Animation 
  • In Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses, it is a family tradition for each princess on her fifth birthday to receive a book of their mother's favorite story (of a princess who dances in a secret magical land) with a unique flower on the cover. When the youngest princesses {triplets Janessa, Kathleen, and Lacey) receive their books, they realize the flowers match tiles on their floor. When danced on, the tiles transform into a staircase to a magical land where the princesses can dance the night away, just like the story in the book.
  • In Mr. Peabody & Sherman, when Sherman starts his first day of school, Peabody presents him with a dog whistle. Later Sherman blows the whistle when he's about to be cut down by a Trojan warrior. Peabody hears the whistle and saves him.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Clash of the Titans, Zeus gives three gifts to Perseus: a sword, a shield and a helm of invisibility. Later, Athena gives him Bubo the owl. All of them are useful to Perseus in his adventures, one way or another.
  • The British Horror Film Dog Soldiers features this with the silver item that a man gave to his girlfriend before their deaths.
  • In the remake of Invaders From Mars, the mint condition vintage penny that David's father gives him is later used to power one of the Martians' weapons, which run off of copper.
  • I.S.S.: Christian gives Kira a miniature Space Station as a welcome gift when she arrives. She and Alexey wind up using the strap on it to kill Christian at the end.
  • Name a James Bond film! Bond always receives plenty of presents from Q. Some of the presents are made specifically for Bond's mission, but most really aren't. Coincidentally, and conveniently, every function of every item from Q just happens to be useful once (and only once) on Bond's mission.
    • Most specifically, Licence to Kill, in which Della and Felix Leiter give Bond a cigarette lighter as a wedding present. It is later used to light an petrol/cocaine soaked Franz Sanchez on fire, sending him to his doom.
    • There is one exception - the exploding alarm clock from License to Kill ("Guaranteed to not wake up anyone who uses it") was never actually used.
  • In Nemesis Game, Jeff gives his daughter Sara a can of mace as a gag gift on her birthday. She later uses it on Dennis when she is attacked by him in the parking garage.
  • Santa Hunters:
    • The Santa pipe given to Alex by his Uncle Charlie is vital in the climax.
    • Elizabeth's mace, also given to her by her Uncle Charlie the year before, comes in handy at the end as well.
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Holmes gives Watson a gift of an adrenaline injection, after demonstrating its use by reviving a dead Gladstone. Later when it looks like Holmes died of his injuries, Watson gives him the shot, reviving him and waking him from an apparently nightmarish fever dream involving a pony.
  • Just before they set out on their voyage in Siren (2010), Rachel gives Ken a pocketknife with 'Forever' engraved on the main blade. At the end of the film, Rachel stabs Silka in the neck with it after she has killed Ken.
  • In Sorority Row, Mrs Crenshaw gives each of the graduating girls a bracelet, with 22 links signifying the 22 sisters. Cassie is later saved from plummeting to a fiery death when her bracelet snags on nail. The girls who removed their bracelets and discarded them (Jessica, Chugs and Claire) all die at the hands of the slasher.
  • At the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Kirk realized that the birthday present Spock gave had a secret message hidden in it. To Kirk's credit, he did suspect something when Spock gave the gift.
    Kirk: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." Message, Spock?
    Spock: None that I'm conscious of, except of course, "Happy birthday". Surely the best of times.
  • This is actually subverted in the first Star Wars: A New Hope film; at the beginning it makes a fairly big deal about Luke being given his father's lightsaber by Obi-Wan, but Luke never ends up actually using it for anything useful, and in the end saves the day with the piloting skills he picked up as a farmboy. It does prove handy in the second film, saving Luke's life on Hoth. He also uses it in his first duel with Darth Vader.
  • In Stoker, India receives a key on a necklace on her eighteenth birthday. The key opens a drawer in India's father's desk, where India finds hundreds of letters that Charlie sent her while he was institutionalized.

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days: Greg gets a "Ladybug" phone that can only call home and 911 as a birthday present. At the end, he calls 911 with it because he thought Frank was going to sell him. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
  • Harry Potter gets a lot of these: his invisibility cloak, a flute, his firebolt, and everything Dumbledore left Harry in his will.
    • Everything Dumbledore left Ron and Hermione in his will as well.
    • Hermione's cat, Crookshanks, was an early birthday present that was crucial to the plot of the third book.
    • Zig-Zagged with Sirius' magic knife. After he received it, he forgot it and just remembered that it would have been useful while in the second task of the Triwizard Tournament. In the next book he uses it once to break into Umbridge's office. Later, he remembers to take the knife with him to the ministry, but then it's melted and rendered unusable when he tries to open a locked door.
    • Also Zig-Zagged in regards to the wrapped gift Sirius gives Harry at Christmas in book 5. Sirius tells him to use it if Snape is giving him trouble, but Harry decides he will never use it and cause a wanted Sirius to leave his safehouse. He doesn't even open it until the end of the book where he learns it was a 2 way mirror he could have communicated with Sirius with. However, as Sirius is already dead by then, it is useless and Harry throws it back into his trunk where it shatters. It isn't until 2 books later where it finally becomes relevant as Aberforth Dumbledore uses the second mirror to keep tabs on Harry who started carrying a shard of his broken mirror around after finding it while cleaning out his trunk.
  • Father Christmas' gifts to the Pevensies in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  • The Lord of the Rings contains several examples:
    • The One Ring itself. Which is actually rarely given as a gift, due to fact that anyone who possesses it finds themselves unable to give it up. However, Gollum repeatedly refers to the Ring as his "birthday present" in The Hobbit, in order to disguise the fact that he killed his own cousin, Déagol, to obtain the Ring. This happens to have occurred on Gollum's birthday.
    • The mithril mail shirt that Bilbo gives Frodo saves his life in the Mines of Moria. This could also be seen as an extension of The Hobbit as well, since it is Thorin's gift to Bilbo that ultimately saves the hobbit's heir and assists in the Ring's destruction.
    • After Frodo arrives in Rivendell, Bilbo gives him his sword Sting. This comes in quite useful when Frodo and Sam encounter Shelob in Cirith Ungol as Sting, being forged in Gondolin, was specifically made to battle evil spiders.
    • Many of the gifts that Galadriel gives the Fellowship:
      • The phial containing the light of Eärendil that she gives to Frodo.
      • The box of dirt that she gives to Sam, which allows him to rebuild the Shire after everything that Saruman does to it.
      • The belt that she gives to Boromir is what allows Frodo to confirm that Boromir is in fact dead and that Faramir's vision of finding Boromir's body wasn't just a dream.
      • The "Elfstone" that she gives Aragorn becomes the symbol of his house and is the name he uses when he takes the throne.
      • The cloaks given to all members of the Fellowship hide them from enemies on numerous occasions.
  • The Curse of Chalion: Lord Dondo gives Princess Royesse Iselle a strand of pearls twice as long as she is tall. Much later, they are instrumental in saving the life of her betrothed.
  • In A Game of Thrones, Daenerys gets a set of three stone dragon eggs as a gift for her marriage to Khal Drogo. Turns out at the end of the book that they're not just rocks after all.
  • In The Dresden Files Bianca gives Lea (Harry's very scary, very powerful and not entirely sane to begin with) faerie godmother an athame which is said to be in the same power league as Amoracchius, which is implied to be the most powerful/untinkered with, of the Swords of the Cross. The next book, Lea passes on Harry's debt to her to Mab so she can keep the blade, which drives her batshit insane. Then Mab, Queen of the Winter Sidhe and on a par with gods and lower Archangels, gets hold of it. Cue massive Oh, Crap! moment.
  • In Cerberon, Aladavan, a sidhe wizard, gives Robert a special sword called Magister, which later becomes important in Darkram's Secret Test of Character. It may have other significance that isn't revealed in the rest of the novel. (Maybe the next one?)
  • The Infernal Devices:
    • The tiny clockwork angel sure comes in handy
    • Also Tessa's dislike for chocolate, and the gift Nate gives Aunt Harriet...
  • In The Man with the Red Tattoo, James Bond is given an antique Japanese sword as a gift for saving the day at the G8 summit. Not even a day manages to pass before he has to use it in a Sword Fight against the Big Bad trying to take revenge on him.
  • ''Violeta: The Del Valle family throw a birthday party for Torito, their intellectually disabled handyman, his first one ever. As a gift, Violeta gives him a wooden cross necklace with her name on it. Decades later, the necklace turns up again among the personal belongings of "disappeared" peasants whose remains have been found. It confirms Torito was among the executed men. Violeta ends up taking it.
  • You (Kepnes): Beck gives Joe a copy of The Da Vinci Code as a thank you for rescuing her from the train tracks. They read it when he imprisons her in the basement and he chokes her to death with the torn out pages from it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Monk, Trudy gives Monk a Christmas present just before she dies which is mentioned in the first and third Christmas episodes of the show. Monk has refused to open it for 12 years. When he finally does open it, it's a videotape of herself telling Monk who her killer might be.
  • NUMB3RS: In "Checkmate", Don is reuniting with his Old Flame Robin while the latter is in FBI protective custody, and gives her a hairclip as a memento of their old relationship. Later in the episode, a Professional Killer is pursuing Robin, but Don uses a tracker hidden in the hairclip to catch up with them just in time.
  • Once Upon a Time: Red has the iconic red cloak that her grandmother gave her, insisting that the color red wards off wolves. Red, who obviously doubts her grandmother's claims, often doesn't wear the cloak even during "wolfstime." It turns out that the cloak does keep away the wolf... because it's an enchanted object that keeps Red from turning.
  • In Season 4 of Six Feet Under, Lisa's young niece Michaela gives Nate a copy of Mary Roach's book Stiff to give to his brother David. After repeatedly forgetting to deliver the gift, Nate realizes that Michaela has concealed a photograph in the book that reveals the involvement of her own father (Lisa's brother-in-law) in Lisa's death.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "The Witch", Xander gives Buffy a bracelet when she's trying out for the cheerleader squad. Later, witch Amy uses it as a personal item essential to a spell she casts on Buffy.
  • CSI: Cyber: At the start of "CMND:\Crash", Elijah shows up wearing a bracelet made for him by his daughter. Later in the episode, he uses the bracelet to give him the extra reach he needs to yank out the control board that is causing the train to crash.
  • The Black Mirror episode "Crocodile" includes a seemingly out-of-place scene where a father gifts their blind infant a guinea pig. When the antagonist of the episode ends up killing the family, the police use a device to scan the memory of the guinea pig to determine the murderer.
  • In Charmed (1998), the girls receive numerous gifts from the magical community to celebrate Wyatt's birth. They mostly got geese that lay golden eggs ("It's the hot gift this year"), but a unicorn also shows up. When the gifts arrive, they're just used for comedy as the girls and Leo try to herd them (and hide them to protect the Masquerade). Later, the geese laying regular eggs is used to show that magic has disappeared from the world (which was probably unintentional from the gift givers), and the unicorn's horn serves as the only source of magic that remains, since unicorns are apparently not "of this world," so they aren't affected by the magic drain (which very much was intended by the gift givers).

  • In The Nutcracker ballet, Clara is given the nutcracker doll, which comes to life later on to help fight off the evil Mouse King.

    Video Games 
  • Midway through Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Soma gets a talisman from Mina. It's a useless accessory, but you need to equip it to avoid getting the Bad Ending.
  • Ib's handkerchief, a gift from her mother for her ninth birthday. It gets a small mention at the start of the game, and is ever-present in your inventory. It's also the key to getting the best ending; Ib lending it to Garry triggers his memories once they leave the painted world.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning's sister Serah gives her a survival knife as a birthday present. Two games later, in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning uses it in the final battle to free Hope's soul.
  • A very easy one to overlook is in Mass Effect 2. When you first meet Mordin, he gives Shepard a Carnifex pistol. In Mass Effect 3, if the player decides to prevent Mordin from releasing the cure for the genophage, regardless of what weapon Shepard is holding at the time, s/he will shoot Mordin in the back with a Carnifex pistol.
  • In Mother 3 the Courage Badge Flint gives to Lucas (through Nippolyte) turns out to be a Franklin Badge.
  • In the manual for Simon the Sorcerer, it's revealed that on Simon's birthday a dog arrived at his house carrying a book adorned with unreadable symbols. Simon shoved the book in the attic, thinking it worthless, and adopts the dog as a family pet. Later on the dog goes into the attic grabs the book and gives it to Simon who, to his astonishment, can now read the book, but still thinks its garbage and throws it over his shoulder. This triggers a portal to open to the magic kingdom where his adventure begins. It later turns out to have been calypso who gave the book to Simon so he could rescue him.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Dimitri offers a dagger to his cousin as a parting gift when they still were kids. At first, the game only mentions it to make fun of the prince's insensitiveness (through a little exchange with Byleth and Sylvain's supports), this dagger's plot importance increases significantly later on: it helps him deduce that cousin's Secret Identity, and in the penultimate chapter of his Azure Moon route, that same cousin, now Empress and ready to conquer the world, explains that she thought of the dagger as a gift to encourage her in treading the path she took.
    • Speaking of Fire Emblem, this also happens in Fire Emblem Engage. Early on in the game, Lumera offers Alear a ring as a birthday gift shortly after awakening from their thousand-year slumber. Later on, after the events of Chapter 21 and 22, that very same ring becomes Alear's Emblem Ring when they're transformed into an Emblem themselves.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Daughter for Dessert, Mortelli gives his gun to the protagonist after interrogating him about his past. The protagonist eventually uses it to force Cecilia’s hotel room door open so he can talk to Amanda (but not to kill, injure, or threaten anybody).
  • A less superpowered example is the voice-recording pendant that Kana: Little Sister's heroine receives from her brother in the opening scene of the game. She uses it to record her final message to him, which he listens to in the end after Kana has died of organ failure.
  • In Katawa Shoujo Hisao goes into an Antiques store in order by a present for Hanako's birthday in Lilly's route. While he is there, he notices a music box and decides that Lilly would like it and purchases it as a gift for her as well. In her Good Ending she plays it for him in his hospital room to let him know that she didn't get on the plane and is staying in Japan with him.

    Web Comics 
  • In Homestuck, John receives birthday presents from his friends. Because of Stable Time Loops, the presents turn out to all be the authentic stuffed bunny from Con Air, at different points throughout its history. The final version of the bunny ends up saving John's life when he is cornered by the Big Bad.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: In one Chaka story, Chaka's ring gets coated with mithril (there's a mithril-secreting mutant at Whateley too) so she can't wear the ring. The mutant gives her a mithril bracelet, and Chaka gives the ring to Generator as a gift, in part because Generator is the only one small enough to wear the ring now. Both of these Chekhov's Gifts turn out to be lifesavers in later stories.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender Book Three episode "Sokka's Master", Master Piandao gifts Sokka a white lotus pai sho tile, to the confusion of Sokka and his friends. In the series finale, it is revealed that Piandao is a member of the secret society the Order of the White Lotus, of which the white lotus tile is a symbol of trust between members. The Order goes on to liberate Ba Sing Se from the Fire Nation's occupation.
  • In an Ewoks episode titled The Curse of the Jindas, Wicket gives a rock on a necklace to Kneesaa. Everybody else laughs at it, but the rock is actually Stone Wizard's long-lost tooth which will free the Jindas from their curse.
  • Kim Possible: At the beginning of "Clean Slate", Kim gives Ron a belt to help with his pants-loss problem. After Kim is struck with a case of Easy Amnesia, the belt jogs the last bit of returning memories to reestablish their relationship.
  • Molly of Denali: In "Party Moose," it is Nina's birthday, and Tooey made a whistle for her as a present. The whistle ends up being just the tool Nina needs to scare the moose away.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Secret of My Excess": Spike gives a fire ruby that he had planned to eat on his birthday to Rarity as a gift. At the end of the episode, Rarity shows Spike the jewel in order to snap him out of his rampage.
    • "Best Gift Ever": While searching for the perfect gift for Twilight, Pinkie Pie meets three reindeer who andicipated her arrival and prepared the "perfect gift" (which is not shown to the audience). Meanwhile, Twilight attempts to prepare a traditional pudding recipe for Pinkie Pie, but Flurry Heart drops random ingredients into the pot, causing it to turn into a Blob Monster. When Pinkie Pie shows up with her gift, it turns out to be four candy canes — the exact ingredients needed to stabilize the pudding.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "The Dad Who Knew Too Little", Bart gives Lisa a laser pointer as a birthday present. Later, Lisa uses that laser to blind the villain who is trying to kill Homer.
    • "Mona Leaves-a" has Mona leave the following items in her video will — Marge gets a hemp sulfur purse, Bart gets a swiss army knife, and Lisa is left with Mona's rebellous spirit. All these things were utilized to save Homer from Mr. Burns.
  • A subverted one from Winx Club S4: The Winx receive the gift of life from the ethereal fairies in ep 23. Just the thing for saving Nabu when he's fatally injured during the Black Circle's betrayal of the earth fairies in the next episode...that is, until the Black Circle also take that away from them.